Battle Report: Nationals 2017 (NOVA Open)

Preparation and My thoughts on the Current Meta

The World Championship to me felt like the pinnacle of where I’ll ever get in competitive Imperial Assault. I was playing on Vassal almost every day for weeks leading up to the tournament, against very high level players. I had never competed in an event that big before and I set a goal for myself to get top 32 for the dice. I ended up losing to DT in the semi-finals 37-40 to get 3rd.

Since then I took a bit of a break from IA. I tested out all the new droid stuff on Vassal, but I felt like the impact to the meta wasn’t huge (with the exception of buffs to Ugnaughts). So my preparation for Nationals was nowhere near as intense as it was for Worlds.

The droid uprising had one major impact on the meta, and that was pushing the Ugnaught swarm from viable to top tier. I predicted this jump in my “Ugnaughts after the Droid Uprising” post back in March. That was before Terminal Protocol had been revealed.

The Junk Grenade

Between Terminal ProtocolShared Experience, and Targeting Network, the Ugnaughts went from a top tier list to arguably the best list in the game. I was already planning on taking Ugnaughts to Worlds if the droid wave dropped in time. Practicing with the Ugnaughts is pretty draining and after the droid wave hit, I really needed the break.

The List

I hereby dub this list “The Oddjob”. Like the character in Goldeneye, this list features a bunch of diminutive figures who don’t feel fair to play against. Again I’d like to reference my previous post:

“I’m not saying Ughs are too strong (right now), I’m just saying that they’re not a fun list to play against.  I wouldn’t mind the ugh swarm as a niche list that counters something specific, but I really don’t want to see ughs dominating the meta.  If the droid uprising wave pushes them into the forefront, the competitive scene is going to be a lot worse off.  Judging from just what we’ve seen so far, I think there is a strong chance of this happening.  I could see this being a major problem for the game.” (March 2017)

Well, now I am saying the Ugnaughts are too strong. They are dominating the meta and it’s bad for the game. I still don’t think they’re unbeatable, and players that have practiced extensively against them fare a lot better, but they’re so different than any other list that it’s a completely different game playing against them. The littlest mistakes feel like massive blunders against the Ugnaughts, and you could feel the frustration in the room at Nationals by everyone that fell victim to this list.

FFG seems like they’re doing the opposite of listening. I’m not the only player that’s been asking for an Ugnaught nerf since before the droid wave. Since then this has been the response from FFG:

  • Released a Junk Droid acrylic token and custom art card as store championship prizes
  • Released three command cards that are obviously designed specifically for junk droids
  • Spoken about how creative and great the junk droid list is in their Team Covenant designer showcase

If everyone else knows the list is problematic for the game, why are the designers not getting the message?

Here’s the list I took:

Deployment Cards

  • 4x Ugnaught Tinkerers
  • 2x elite Ugnaught Tinkerers
  • IG-88 with Focused on the Kill
  • Onar Koma

Command Cards

  • Assassinate
  • On the Lam
  • Blaze of Glory
  • Negation
  • Focus
  • 2xPummel
  • Blitz
  • Shared Experience
  • Terminal Protocol
  • Element of Surprise
  • Take Initiative
  • Positioning Advantage
  • Opportunistic
  • Targeting Network

Some other options I was considering: Extra Protection, Devotion, Squad Swarm, Fleet Footed, Strength in Numbers, Urgency, Celebration, Tools for the Job.

Focus and Pummel are great cards if the junk droid is right next to an opponent. Focus is a lot better than Pummel vs a Black Die, especially if you use it during your elite Ugnaught activation. On the Lam is good at keeping your full set of Ugnaughts alive for just a little bit longer. The list can fall apart once you lose about 3 Ugnaughts.

Oddjob Strategy

I think a lot of people saw how well Ugnaughts were doing in other tournaments and just thought they were the best list, but they do require some strategy to run. The most important aspect of running them is where to position the junk droid in the first couple of turns. The junk droid should be in a spot where your opponent can get to it and kill it, but they have to move away from their deployment zone to do so. If they move out to kill it, you now have plenty of options for positioning the junk droid in spaces where your opponent can’t get to it at all before you start hitting the unit he sent out to attack. If your opponent ignores the junk droid on the first turn, then he’s risking you having Terminal Protocol or using your elite Ugnaught’s Overdrive ability to order the junk droid to move into position to attack. Against any other list moving a unit out 4 spaces to attack seems like it wouldn’t weaken your position at all, but against Ugnaughts this little move can lose the game very early. Now your Junk droid can be 8 spaces away from the enemy deployment zone to attack instead of 4.

A lot of people have asked how to beat the oddjob, and it’s really map dependent.

On Jabba’s Palace you want to open your door as soon as possible to give you more lanes to shoot the junk droid’s normal hiding spots. You want to move your list en masse to your opponent’s door, which he shouldn’t have opened if he’s playing Ugs right. Round 2 you want to open the door and trade as much as possible. You should be getting 8 points a round off of objectives on the control mission and probably 4 per round on the crates mission.

On Obi’s map you want to take the top and keep your door closed until the end of round 1 or the start of round 2. There are no good spots in the top hallway for the junk droid to hide to get to your units. You want to be able to open both doors up at the beginning of round 2 so you can shoot into your opponent’s deployment zone. The junk droid does minimal damage to units holding the crates with extra defense, so you should be able to score some crate points. You should also try to get all the objective points from the patrons mission.

On the ranger map, you want to take the red deployment zone. Since there are no doors you should have shots at the enemy deployment zone in round 1. The Ugnaughts don’t have much room to hide in this map. The junk droid is going to score a lot of points from crates in the raining crates mission. You should be able to control more objectives in the shielded mission.

It’s important when playing against Ugnaughts to not value your units the same as in a normal matchup. You’re going to lose about 8 points worth of figures in round 1 and that’s ok. Make sure you move your units up in a group, because the junk droid will feast on units pushed up by themselves. Think about where your opponent can hide the junk droid to get within 4 spaces of any of your units. Any abilities that ping for 1 damage should be used to kill the junk droid.

Units that are good against Ugnaughts:

  • Mak (surge to force a command card discard is perfect against the junk droid)
  • Anything with bonus block (IG-88, Rancor, Vader)
  • Anything that has bonus damage pings like Vinto, cleave units, Jedi Luke
  • Jedi Luke is especially good since he can kill all of the regular ugnaughts in 2 activations. He might die before he gets to them though if you’re not careful.
  • Black die units are better than white die units
  • cheap deployment cards with ranged attacks
  • Jawas (bonus block + cheap unit)
  • 8 or more activation lists are good

You would think Jabba would be good against Ugnaughts, but in reality he’s more of a liability than an asset. You need to have an army that you can move up all together, and every health point that’s still sitting in your deployment zone is a wasted health point. You’re only going to get about an extra 2-3 VP’s a round if your opponent is smart with the junk droid, and then you’re going to have to spend VP’s to attack anyway, so it’s not really worth it.

Swiss Rounds

Round 1: Jabba’s Palace: BYE

I forgot to bring my Regional Champion voucher for a first round bye, but I ended up getting one anyway by the luck of the draw.

1-0

Round 2: Nal Hutta: Shielded

Opponent’s list: IG-88 w/FotK, BT-1, 3P0, EUgnaught, Vinto, 2xeJawa, I think Devious and Greedo were the last 5 points, but I don’t remember.

He took the bottom zone. He spread out and tried to take 3 objectives. Spreading out is a mistake against most lists, but especially against Ugnaughts. He also left his own elite Ugnaught in a spot that gave me a nice nook to hide my junk droid. I ended up picking off both of his Jawas and his Ugnaught in round 1. He made a nice play with Vinto to retreat and take out an Ugnaught but it was too little too late. Once I had an activation advantage I started whittling down his IG-88. I ended up getting the win on points, 40-17.

2-0

Round 3: Anchorhead Cantina: Line of Fire

Opponent’s list: 6xUgnaughts, Vinto, Greedo, Onar, Devious, Black Market

This list might have a slight advantage over the one I took because of the extra activation and black market. Then again, he didn’t have the range to trade with me from a distance. He put his Greedo on his terminal at the end of round 1 and I sniped him with IG-88 and assassinate. I did make a mistake by pushing my IG up too far, and got him killed early. I traded for some Ugnaughts and ended up with the activation advantage, which I used to eke out a win 22-21.

3-0

Round 4: Nal Hutta: Raining Crates

I got matched up with Chuck who I met at worlds and is a really good guy. He was running: eRangers, eWeequay, Gideon, 3P0, Ig-88, and eJawa w/ temp alliance. This was very similar to a list I was working on before the tournament, specifically for the Nal Hutta map.

He got the red deployment zone and kept his army in a tight formation. I was going for the crates, so I didnt put pressure on him to kill the junk droid. He ended up taking out my IG-88 with his rangers really early. We ended in a tie, but he won on the points from kills tiebreaker

3-1

Round 5: Jabba’s Palace: New Ownership

I got matched up against Paul Heaver in this round, who was the only person besides DT to beat me at worlds. He was running Luke’s Finest with Jedi Luke, eRangers, Hera, Mak, Gideon, 3P0 and Chopper.

I drew Terminal protocol in my starting hand and ran into his deployment zone my second activation to deal 10 points of damage (2 each on 5 figures). He ran Luke up to try and trade, but he didn’t have Son of Skywalker. He did manage to take out my IG-88 with his Luke, but I took Luke out and grinded the victory. The Junk Bomb feels so cheap to use, it’s probably the worst thing in the game right now.

4-1

Round 6: Anchorhead Cantina, Gaining Favor

I got matched up against Julian who’s been in the top 8 at worlds every year, but I had never played him before. We were both guaranteed spots in the top 16 at this point so this was supposed to be a pretty relaxed game, but he had never gotten a taste of the Ugnaught swarm before. It’s really hard to have a nice relaxing game against this list. It was probably good we played it though, because he learned quickly from this match and went on to win his next match against Ugnaughts.

His list: Jabba, 2xE-Weequay, Vinto, Greedo, Hera, 3P0, rJawa, black market, devious, temp alliance

He took the top deployment zone and turtled there for two rounds, not moving anyone out at all, nor opening his door. I had a very hard time getting my Junk droid in a good position, and meanwhile he was dishing out lots of focus and drawing lots of cards with Jabba and black market. However, I put my Ig-88 at the end of the hall where I could snipe into his deployment zone and he had no one in position to challenge. By the time he rolled his forces out of his deployment zone he had lost too much material. He also didn’t touch any objectives, which are pretty important on this mission. But like I said before, he learned from this loss and I did not want a rematch on this map in the top cut.

5-1

I finished day 1 third in the standings.

Top Cut

Once you get to the top cut in this game you start running into a lot of familiar faces. It’s unfortunate because you don’t want your friends to lose, and all the guys I know at this level are awesome dudes. At the same time, everyone at this level is a really good player and very competitive.

Top 16: Jabba’s Palace: New Ownership

My first match of the day was against Kevin Conners, who I consider to be a teammate at these events. In fact, half of the Ugnaught swarm I was using was figures I borrowed from him, and he’s the one who convinced me to bring the list in the first place. He was running the Hunter list that won worlds: 2xEWeequays, Shyla, Onar, Greedo, 3p0, Gideon, temporary alliance, Black Market, Devious

I ran my Junk droid up and killed his 3p0 with my second activation, before he got a chance to activate. That gave me an activation advantage which I used to kill a Weequay and do 8 damage to his Onar by the end of round 1. He resigned in round 2. This match definitely reinforced my belief that the Ugnaught list needs to be nerfed.

Top 8: Jabba’s Palace: Spoils of Crime

This round I was matched against Eric Deitsch who has practiced extensively with and against Ugnaughts and had a very good understanding of how they work. He was running: 2xEWeequays, Mak, Gideon, 3P0, E Jawa, Onar, Greedo, Temporary Alliance, Chopper

He made the very smart decision of opening his door very early in round 1. With the door open, I didn’t have any spaces within 5 of his deployment zone to hide the junk droid without Mak getting a shot off. I was holding On the Lam so I didn’t want to give him a chance to force me to discard. I kept tucking the junk droid in the little cubby in the middle of the map, which kept him from moving out of his deployment zone, but didnt give me many choices for attacking either. It was a very slow game with both of us taking a long time to ponder each move. He put his Mak in the pit, which I’m not sure if that was the right choice or not against Ugnaughts. He used Mak’s command card on me in round 2, which forced me to shuffle Pummel, focus, On the Lam, Opportunistic, and 1 other card back into my deck. I ended up picking off some of his Weequays and he got my Onar. The match only lasted two rounds and it was my most difficult match of the whole tournament. In the end it came down to I had to kill one more Weequay who had 3 health left and I had 3 junk attacks to do it. I rolled a 2 dmg green die and he rolled an evade, so I managed to kill him in 1 hit. I won 16-14.

Semi-final: Anchorhead: Line of Fire

I got matched up against Kody, who helped train me when I was first starting out in competitive IA. He was running 2xPirates, Hera, BT, Onar, Gideon, 3P0, E Jawa, Temp Alliance, and Devious.

I drew Terminal Protocol in my starting hand and managed to use it to deal 14 damage on my second activation. I really don’t see how this is a fair move at all for 1 command card point. I picked off a Jawa and 2 Pirates with junk droid attacks. He picked up crates with Onar and Hera, so I moved my IG-88 and Onar both up really far since he didnt have much to shoot at me with. IG-88 ended up taking out his BT-1 and Hera.

Finals: Nal Hutta: Raining Crates

I got rematched against Julian who I played in round 6 of Swiss. (His list: Jabba, 2xE-Weequay, Vinto, Greedo, Hera, 3P0, rJawa, black market, devious, temp alliance)

Once again I drew Terminal Protocol and once again I rolled 2 on the green die to deal 10 damage with my second activation. There’s really nothing anyone can do to avoid this bomb either, I was hiding the Junk droid 6 spaces from his deployment zone. I got all the crates with the junk droid, which also feels unfair. I picked off a wounded Pirate and his Jawa with my IG-88 at the end of round 1. He did manage to pick off an Ugnaught I put on my terminal, but it was like 16-3 by the end of round 1. This was a pretty anti-climactic finals, all because of the mission and my luck with terminal protocol.

Closing Thoughts

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Ugnaughts are a cancer list. With a little luck, they can lead to some absolutely silly results (14 damage with your second activation). They’re also incredibly unfun to play against. It is absolutely a problem that FFG needs to address ASAP. Here are some solutions that I would be fine with:

  • Limit armies to taking no more than 1 elite ugnaught and 2 regular ugnaughts
  • If the junk droid activated before your Ugnaught, when you play scrap betallion the junk droid enters play as tapped instead of readied
  • Remove the droid trait from the junk droid, or even “junk droids cannot use command cards”

Partial solutions:

  • Junk droids do not count for control
  • Junk droids can’t gain focus
  • killing a junk droid doesn’t allow you to redraw shared experience
  • junk droids can’t use terminal protocol
  • Ugnaughts only have 3 health and elites only have 6

Until FFG erratas this list, make sure to practice both with it and against it before any major tournament. New Vader should provide a nice counter, but it probably won’t be enough on a big map like Nal Hutta.

Even though I have some problems with the meta I still had a great time at the tournament. I have positive experiences every time I interact with the IA community. You guys really are what makes this game great.

Thanks for reading and thanks for everyone who was rooting for me!

-Brett